NFL reacts strongly to StarCaps ruling

While Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams are celebrating a victory in court today that will likely allow them to play throughout the 2009 season, the NFL had a different reaction.

Defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams will likely be able to play the entire 2009 season after a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling Friday morning that allows Hennepin County District Court to continue with its portion of the StarCaps case.

In that portion of the case, the Williamses are allowed to challenge the NFL's administering of its substance abuse policy under Minnesota employment law, essentially saying they were not allowed to explain themselves or be given the chance at a second test, as called for by a Minnesota employment act but not required in the NFL's policy. The NFL had issued the players a four-game suspension last year, but the players were issued a temporary restraining order on that suspension late last season.

The case could end up being a landmark decision that challenges the drug policies in other sports leagues, some of which entered their opinions with the U.S. Court of Appeals. It could create a tug of war between individual state employment laws and the policies of collectively bargained agreements between players' unions and the sports leagues.

"The real losers today are the players on 31 other clubs, who no longer live under the same rules as players on the Minnesota Vikings – a result of the NFL Players Association's failure to stand behind the program it negotiated with the league, and for which it has properly claimed credit with fans and before Congress," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mailed statement to Viking Update Friday afternoon. "The most respected program in sports has been put in jeopardy by the NFL union's silence and today's ruling."

Vikings coach Brad Childress was happy to presumably be able to put the NFL-imposed and player-appealed four-game suspensions to the Williamses behind him.

"I am excited for Pat and Kevin. For the time being, they can put that behind them," Childress said. "We have always respected the legal system and knew it was squarely in their hands. It was an unknown and now it's a known and looking forward not looking backward."

The league hasn't yet decided on any further action it might take.

"We will review the decision and evaluate our options on how to proceed," Aiello said.

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